Alice Salomon was the third of eight children, and the second daughter, of Albert and Anna Salomon. Like many girls from affluent families in this period, she was denied further education, despite her ambition to become a teacher. This ended in 1893 when she was 21, and she recorded in her autobiography that this was "when her life began".
In 1900 she joined the Bund Deutscher Frauenvereine ("Federation of German Women's Associations" - BDF hereinafter). In due course she was elected deputy chairman, and kept this role until 1920. (The Chairman was Gertrud Bäumer). The organisation supported destitute, abandoned, or single mothers and aimed to prevent their children being neglected.
From 1902 to 1906 she studied economics at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin, though she had no relevant qualification. Her publications were sufficient for university entrance. She earned her doctorate in 1908 with a dissertation entitled Die Ursachen der ungleichen Entlohnung von Männer- und Frauenarbeit (loosely, "Causes of Pay Inequality Between Men and Women"). Also in this year she founded a Soziale Frauenschule ("Social Women's School") in Berlin, which was renamed "Alice Salomon School" in 1932 and is now called Alice-Salomon-Fachhochschule für Sozialarbeit und Sozialpädagogik Berlin ("Alice Salomon College of Further Education for Social Work and Social Sciences of Berlin").
In 1909 she became secretary of the Internationalen Frauenbund ("International Women's Federation"). She converted from Judaism to the Lutheran Church in 1914. In 1917 she was made chairman of the Konferenz sozialer Frauenschulen Deutschlands ("Conference of German Women's Social Schools") that she herself had founded; by 1919 sixteen schools belonged to it.
In 1920 she resigned from the BDF from fear of antisemitic propaganda. Five years later, she founded the Deutsche Akademie für soziale und pädagogische Frauenarbeit ("German Academy for Women's Social and Educational Work") which was directed by Hilde Lion. Speakers at this institution included Albert Einstein, Carl Gustav Jung, Helene Weber and others of similar eminence.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, this organisation published thirteen monographs on the social and economic conditions faced by the poor in Germany. For Alice Salomon's 60th birthday, she received an honorary doctorate from Berlin University and the Silver State Medal from the Prussian State Ministry.
In 1933 when they acceded to power, the Nazi party stripped her of all her offices and six years later, when she was 65, she faced interrogation by the Gestapo. The Nazis objected to Salomon's Jewish origins, her Christian humanist ideas, her pacifism and international reputation. She was expelled from Germany, where she had been running a relief committee for Jewish emigrants.
She went to New York, her German citizenship and her two doctorates having been taken from her. In 1944 she became an American citizen. A year later, she was honorary President of the International Women's Federation and the International Association of Schools of Social Work.
She died in New York.Character is Destiny: the autobiography of Alice Salomon, edited by Andrew Lees, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004, ISBN 0472113674
Charakter ist Schicksal, Lebenserinnerungen, herausgegeben von Rüdiger Baron und Rolf Landwehr, Weinheim und Basel: Beltz Verlag, 1983 ISBN 3-407-85036-0 (Auszug in: Lixl-Purcell (Hg) (in German)
Erinnerungen deutsch-jüdischer Frauen 1900 - 1990 Reclam, Lpz. 1992 u.ö. ISBN 3-379-01423-0 S. 120 - 125) (in German)